Texas Court Decisions Earn Dishonorable Mention in Annual Judicial Hellholes Report
AUSTIN, TEXAS—Two recent Texas court decisions landed Texas back on the Judicial Hellholes, an annual report published this week by the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF). The 2018-2019 Judicial Hellholes report highlights cases and jurisdictions across the United States where judges and civil courts systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unbalanced manner. ATRF included Texas courts and cases among its “Dishonorable Mentions.”
The Texas cases in question include a staggering $740 million judgment in Bexar County — the largest civil judgment in the nation this year.
“While lawsuit reforms have greatly improved our state’s civil justice system and reduced abuse over the past couple of decades, there are still some Texas cases and jury awards that continue to raise eyebrows,” said Marcus Jahns, chairman of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (TALA).
The Bexar County case mentioned in the report concerned misappropriation of trade secrets. The court awarded a staggering $706 million in actual and punitive damages, with much of that amount intended to recover future lost profits. While Texas law does not allow for speculative damages, the court’s massive award for future lost profits appears to strain that boundary. Further, the court awarded $29 million in interest and $4.5 million in legal fees, bringing the total to $740 million.
The other Texas case, involving Toyota in a Dallas court, involved a $242 million dollar judgment against a car manufacturer on a design defect theory, though the jury found both that the manufacturer’s design exceeded all federal safety standards and that there was no evidence of a safer alternative design.
“Many Texans are rightly concerned that massive jury awards are disproportional to the damage done, and, in some cases, the personal injury lawyer is simply going after a third party with the deepest pockets rather than the party most directly responsible for the injury,” Jahns said.
The report, which has been published each year since 2002, examines civil justice trends over the previous year and identifies “Judicial Hellholes” — examples of jurisdictions where the civil justice system systematically applies laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner. Conversely, the report also highlights “Points of Light” with examples of fair and balanced judicial decisions adhering to the rule of law and positive legislative reforms.
In the recent past, the Judicial Hellholes report has listed Texas as a “Point of Light” for its commitment to passing meaningful lawsuit reforms and for increasing efficiency in its civil justice system. This year’s report did not include Texas on this list.
A full copy of the report can be found at http://www.judicialhellholes.org/.
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Learn more about Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse online at tala.com or via Twitter at @TexasTALA.